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Danish women hold key to Maastricht vote: Gallup poll shows clear majority in favour of ratification

A CLEAR majority of Danes are predicted to vote today in favour of ratifying the Maastricht treaty, breathing life into the prospects for closer European integration.

A Gallup poll yesterday showed 50 per cent for 'yes', 32 per cent 'no', 14 per cent undecided and 4 per cent not intending to vote. However, more than half the 'no' voters expected the result to be 'yes'.

The 'no' campaign yesterday vowed that whatever the result, they would continue their battle. A dozen citizens began legal proceedings to ascertain whether the treaty contradicted Danish constitutional law. The court has yet to rule on the case.

The Foreign Minister, Niels Helveg Petersen, again criticised the British media and some British politicians for fighting a shadow campaign. 'Those who are trying to win the Battle of Britain on Danish soil will be disappointed with tomorrow's result,' he said yesterday.

The Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, emphasised that the opt-outs on the key areas of defence, citizenship and monetary union that Denmark won from EC colleagues at December's Edinburgh summit would be legally binding and that a 'yes' vote would not boost federalism.

The legality of the Edinburgh Accord and the spectre of a European superstate have loomed large: Danes are proud of their tradition of effective local democracy. Creeping federalism has been one of the principal themes of the 'no' campaign and fears were fanned by Martin Bangemann, the outspoken German EC Commissioner, telling a US newspaper that the Maastricht treaty would lay the foundations for a federal Europe.

Greater Copenhagen and the north and west of Jutland are the only areas to have a majority of 'no' voters. The balance in the previous ballot was tipped by women and Social Democrat supporters who voted against the party line: their votes will be crucial today.

In the Social Democrat stronghold of Odense a straw poll found that many people who voted 'no' last time were still undecided. 'I just don't know . . . I'm not really convinced by any of the arguments. I'll decide in the booth,' said Hanne Olsen.

The overwhelming impression is that even if Denmark votes for Maastricht, it will be giving only grudging approval.

Andrew Marr, page 19

Pressure on Major, page 6